Our Readers' Smart Tips to Stop Teens From Texting While Driving

One quarter of teens say they’ve texted while driving, despite the well-known safety risks.

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If you have teenagers, you know that two of their most beloved pieces of hardware are the cellphone and the car. Put them together, and it’s teen nirvana. One quarter of teenagers say they text while driving, according to a new report from the Pew Internet and American Life Project, despite the many public safety campaigns pointing out the dangers. Half of the teenagers polled say they have ridden in a car while the teenage driver was texting.

To say texting while driving is a dumb idea is an understatement, given that all the research shows that doing so—or even just talking on the phone—makes an accident much more likely. (A recent Virginia Tech study says texters are 23 times more likely to have a crash.) But since we regard cars as mobile living rooms, it’s easy to see why it’s hard for us all, teenagers and adults alike, to resist.

I recently suggested three ways to cut the risk of teenagers texting while driving: Set family rules for cellphone use; never use a phone while walking, driving, or otherwise moving; and don’t text and drive yourself. My clever readers came up with many more:

  • Cellphones are off while in the car. This clear, simple rule comes from Greg of Illinois. It could be applied to all kids in your car, not just your own teen.
  • Go silent. Amy of Indiana puts her phone on silent mode when in the car, then places it in her bag so she’s not tempted to peek. 
  • No phones on the person. This comes from HillbillyBill of Tennessee, who defines “kid” as anyone from 1 to 150 years of age. This one’s nice and clear and could be accomplished by stashing phones in the trunk before setting off.
  • A program to shut off the phone when the car is in motion. This techno-fix comes from Don D. Brock of Arizona. All cellphones could have a feature linked to the GPS, he says, that would disable the phone if it’s moving more than 10 or 15 mph.
  • Buy a car with a manual shift. This 20th century technology makes it hard to text and drive, says U.S. News blogger Mary Kate Cary. But as someone who has a manual-shift car and who has been known to glance at the iPhone while shifting, I think this one could make teen drivers even more dangerous. Who doesn’t love a challenge?
  • Set a good example by pulling over when you make calls. Attagirl of Pennsylvania says she quit using the phone while driving after two women in her area were charged with vehicular manslaughter as a result of texting while driving. She says she’s going to be extra sure to do that when her 13-year-old is in the car. Attagirl, Attagirl! I like your style. And I’ll try to set as good an example myself.
  • This poll is now closed, but the debate continues in the comments section.

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